Product Hazards – Drowning
Water safety is important for all ages, but especially for toddlers. According to the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP), drowning is the leading cause of injury death in children between one and four. Drowning kills nearly 1,000 children every year, and 8,700 visited a hospital emergency room because of a drowning incident.1 Drownings can happen silently and quickly in a matter of seconds.
Many of these children drown in home pools, and 69% of drownings among children under five happen during non-swim times. Children can climb out a window, crawl through a doggy door, or exit an unattended door to get to the pool.
The biggest drowning threat facing families with toddlers is unexpected, unsupervised access to water: swimming pools, hot tubs and spas, bathtubs, natural bodies of water such as ponds, and standing water in homes such as toilets and 5-gallon buckets.
The U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) released a report in May 2022 specific to pool and spa drownings. The report found that from 2017 through 2019, there were an average of 389 pool- or spa-related fatal drownings reported per year involving children younger than 15. Of the reported pool- or spa-related child drownings, 73% involved children younger than five.
The AAP recommends barriers to help prevent tragedies. Every pool should have a fence that surrounds all four sides, including the side that separates the house from the pool. According to the AAP, proper fencing can prevent over half of all swimming pool drownings of young children.
Since there is no federal law mandating a pool fence, KID recommends using the AAP’s standards when purchasing a pool fence.
The fence should:
- Be at least 4 feet high and have no opening under it or between slats that are more than 4 inches wide.
- Have a self-closing and self-latching gate that opens away from the pool, with the latch out of reach of young children.
- Surround all four sides of the pool.
- Be non-climbable and completely separate the pool from the house.
More pool safety tips:
- If a young child is missing, first check the pool or other water sources; there isn’t time to check other places first.
- Always keep infants and young children within arm’s reach around water. Inflatable arm bands or swim tubes are not lifesaving devices and should not be relied on for safety.
- Above-ground pools should also be fenced. And when the pool is not in use, lock or remove the ladders to prevent access by children.
- Door alarms, window guards, pool covers, and pool alarms can be additional layers of protection when used with a fence.
- Enroll your children in swimming lessons. The AAP supports swimming lessons for most children 4 years and older, and for children 1 to 4 years of age who are ready to learn how to swim. Because children develop at different rates, they will be ready to swim at their own time.
- Make a water safety plan with your family. Learn more at PoolSafely.gov.
Other Products Can Pose Drowning Hazards
Young children can drown in as little as one or two inches of water. Here are some products in and around homes that can pose drowning hazards to young children:
- Bath seats. KID recommends against the use of all bath seats. It only takes a few seconds of time and as little as one inch of water for an infant to drown. Read KID’s product hazard page on bath seats here. The U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission recommends using a hard plastic child bathtub and always keep the child within arm’s reach.
- Landscaping features in your yard such as bird baths, fountains, and ponds. The AAP recommends against using these features until children in the home are older.
- 5-gallon buckets. Water should be emptied from containers such as pails and buckets immediately after use.
- Toilets. To prevent drowning in toilets, young children should not be left alone in the bathroom, and toilet locks may be helpful.
Recalls for Drowning Hazards
Since 2016, there have been three children’s products that have been recalled for drowning hazards:
- Two bath seats recalled for failing to meet the federal safety standard. The bath seats can tip-over, causing a drowning hazard.
- Infant bath tub was recalled because the fabric sling can detach, which poses a risk of injury or drowning.
1 AAP statistics on drowning deaths and emergency room visits refer to children younger than 20 years.
In memory of Levi Hughes and Emmy Miller
This page is dedicated to Levi Hughes and Emmy Miller who drowned from pool incidents in 2018. Their parents turned their grief into advocacy and have devoted their efforts to educating the public about pool safety and the dangers of water hazards by sharing life-saving resources. KID honored Nicole & Jonathan Hughes and Morgan & Bode Miller as 2019 KID Best Friend Award recipients.
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